Roasted Brain Flower (Kao Nao Hua)

Roasted Brain Flower (Kao Nao Hua)

Roasted Brain Flower, known as “Kao Nao Hua (烤脑花)” in Chinese, is a traditional and distinctive snack originating from the Sichuan-Chongqing region. This unique delicacy is crafted by mixing pig brains with a blend of finely chopped sea pepper, Sichuan peppercorn powder, and various other seasonings before roasting. The result is a dish with a rich aroma, a velvety texture upon tasting, and a delightful fragrance that is both savory and non-greasy.

The texture of brain flower is reminiscent of cheese, smooth and creamy, resembling spinal marrow. People from Sichuan have embraced this delicacy, exploring numerous ways to enjoy it. Whether it’s brain flower skewers at a hot pot joint, braised brain flower from a street vendor, grilled brain flower at a barbecue stall, or stir-fried brain flower at a local eatery, the versatility of this dish is showcased in a variety of preparations, including pan-fried brain flower and brain flower noodles.

Preparation Methods:

Method One:

  1. Carefully remove the blood vessels from the brain flower using a toothpick, leaving behind a pristine, tender brain flower. Split it into two halves for easier grilling and enhanced flavor absorption.
  2. Preheat the grill, ensuring the flame is set to the lowest setting. When almost cooked, add Sichuan peppercorn oil, sprinkle with monosodium glutamate (MSG) and chopped green onions. The fragrant brain flower is ready to be savored.

Method Two:

  1. Remove the membrane from the brain flower, bring water to a boil, and blanch the brain flower. After a minute, drain the brain flower and cut it into thumb-sized chunks on a cutting board.
  2. Mix cornstarch with egg white and an appropriate amount of water until it forms a batter that can coat the brain flower chunks. Deep-fry the brain flower until golden brown, then drain and plate.
  3. In an empty pan, heat oil and stir-fry soaked sea pepper sauce, doubanjiang (fermented bean paste), and a suitable amount of Sichuan peppercorns. Add a small amount of water and briefly simmer. Mix in minced garlic, a touch of MSG, salt, chicken essence, vinegar, sugar, and cornstarch slurry. Bring to a boil and pour the sauce over the fried brain flower.

Comparisons:

Both methods have their distinct qualities. The first method offers a more pronounced aroma but with a slightly heavier oil presence. The second method caters to those who prefer a lighter dish, allowing for better control over the level of saltiness and the amount of added seasonings.

Roasted Brain Flower, with its intriguing name and diverse preparations, is a testament to the innovative and rich culinary landscape of the Sichuan-Chongqing region, where flavors are celebrated in all their complexity.

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